Check out Orange Politics for a complete run down in the latest chapter in relations between UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill. At issue is planning for a mega campus that UNC wants to build right in the middle of town over the next 50 years. The town rightfully wants to have a say in the project, but UNC would rather not have to worry about the impacts of its development decisions on the people who live here. Of special note in the current dust-up is UNC's perennial nukular option, thrown on the table this time by Trustee Rusty Carter.
“I believe the voices that choose to be the greatest obstacles to this at the moment will be the voices that have the least impact, in the end,” Carter said. “I believe it will be taken from our hands at some point by the leadership of this state.”
For those who don't understand UNC-speak, Rusty Carter is threatening to call in the General Assembly to pass special legislation so UNC can trump local zoning regulations. This is a threat UNC has often made when it doesn't get what it wants in negiations with the town.
Our Town and Gown have found ways to work together effectively for more than two centuries, with some decades running along more smoothly than others. In recent years, things have been uneasy. Facing serious development pressures, the Town has insisted on being a full partner at the table. And the University doesn't like it. What's more, the current UNC administration has a discouraging record of cozying up to business interests in hot pursuit of the mighty dollar. Witness the recent naming of a campus building for Fedex. And the Chancellor's ill-advised whoring for $5 million from Art "the Puppetmaster" Pope.
I don't trust the UNC Board of Trustees to operate in good faith in negotiations with the town. And I certainly don't trust their instincts about protecting the interests of Chapel Hill citizens. Rusty Carter's latest power play, backed by a Chancellor who needs to suck up to the business interests on his board, makes the whole sorry saga even sadder.